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But it’s only May, you say. Should we be worrying about exams this early?

Yes, it’s only May, but exams…well, they have a way of quickly sneaking up.  Luckily, there is a secret to acing exams. It’s a simple secret, really. Lean in close… the secret to acing exams is—preparation. Starting early. Getting a head start.


Writing exams is a little like running a marathon. A steady pace is the best way to achieve success. Effective exam preparation is about endurance and long-term vision. Like any race, no success comes from last minute efforts. Just as the body requires training to run a marathon, the brain needs adequate preparation to succeed in exams.


Time and preparation. They are the twin pillars that prop up top-notch study skills. Sure, there are plenty of other factors that contribute (see our school strategies section for more study skills) but time and preparation will see you through to the very end.


That being said, time and preparation alone cannot ensure exam success if the mind is not engaged while studying. The brain should always be a major participant in study time. No studying is complete without active cognitive involvement. But how can you get the conscious mind involved in study time? The answer is as simple as keeping the brain engaged. This means constantly questioning, integrating, and synthesizing information, not just passively moving eyes over the page. It means using cognitive techniques like those that are part of every Oxford Learning program. It means turning passive studying into active studying.


The ability to stay sharp and continually process new information, even when the body is tired, is what makes the brain such an amazing muscle—unlike arms or legs, you can always depend on it to carry on right to the very end. It’s always up for more exercise. And, with active study techniques like those we teach at Oxford Learning, you’ll not only finish the exam race, you’ll win it!


The best time to develop and execute an effective exam strategy is right now.

Turn your brain on before you study!

Active studying begins by asking questions before, during, and after study time:

·         What am I about to learn?

·         What do I already know about this subject?

·         How does this information fit into a bigger picture?

·         Do I understand what I have just read?

·         Can I paraphrase it?

·         Are there any key words that I need to write down?

  • Why are these words key?



Ten Tips for Effective Studying


1.  Give yourself plenty of time. Cramming doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. When you start to study weeks ahead you have plenty of time to read everything. It also gives you time to ask questions about anything you don’t fully understand.


2.  Use an Agenda. Write your study time in your agenda, even if it’s only 20 minutes a night. An agenda is one of the best organizational tools to help you prepare for your exams.


3.  Set up a study stadium. Okay, it doesn’t have to be an actual stadium—just an area where you can leave your notes, your pencils, and your dictionary. Someplace where you are comfortable and where there is little distraction—that means no TV or blaring music!


4.  Look at the big picture. How many pages in total do you have to study? How much time? If you have 50 pages to cover in 10 weeks, then that is only 1 page a night on weekdays, with weekends off. That’s not so bad! You can even write down what pages to study on what night.


5.  Study a little bit every night. When you start early enough you can easily avoid the stress and anxiety of pulling an all-nighter. And, you can move at a steadier pace—20 minutes a night is easier to handle than 7 hours the night before. By the week before the exam you’ll have read everything at least once and you’ll be prepared!


6.  Make your own notes. Look at the chapter or unit or section. What are the titles, headings, and subheadings? Are there any bolded words? Write these down. These are key words, and they are great indicators of what the material is about.


7.  Put it in your own words. This is known as paraphrasing, and it’s a great technique to help you really understand the material. Memorization and rote repetition? That’s for robots! You need to understand the material to succeed!


8.  Cover, recite, and check. But how do you paraphrase? It’s as easy as reading over a page, a paragraph, or a sentence, then covering it up, and saying it back in your own words!


9.  Don’t study the stuff you know well. Start with the most challenging sections, and move on from there. There is no point studying material that you are confident you know. A quick review to make sure you remember everything is enough.


10.  Make classroom time active learning time. The best study tip is one that doesn’t even involve studying, it happens in the classroom. The secret to easy studying is to be an active learner in the classroom. Raise your hand. Ask questions. Participate in discussions. Don’t just sit and wait for the teacher to teach you. Get involved in learning! The more responsibility you take for your education, the easier learning— and studying—will be.



You can visit for more helpful study strategies and education information. Oxford Learning is Canada’s leading provider of supplemental and enrichment education services, helping students, from preschool through high school, build strong academic skills, learning and study strategies, confidence and motivation.   Call your local Oxford Learning Centre today in Pickering 905-420-3141, Ajax 905-683-6660 or Whitby 905-668-6800 to learn how Oxford can  help your children develop active learning skills so they can achieve their full potential in school and life.